Thursday, March 9, 2017

33 - The Synoptic Gospels

The first three Gospels in the New Testament are similar in character but, of course, they are not the same because they were written by three different men.
The word "synoptic" is a Greek word that means
Should I or should I not write a biography of Christ?
presenting or taking the same or common view...of or relating to the first three Gospels of the New Testament. Merriam-Webster.   These are sometimes called "the parallel Gospels".

Because they are similar we will not study each biography individually but rather go through them in an intermixed form.

John the Baptist

In his introduction, Dr Luke states his purpose for writing, so that you might know the certainty of those things in which you have been instructed.   He also states his qualifications to write the biography of Christ.   Luke 1:3-4. 

Luke starts his story with a short biography of John the Baptist.  To do that he backtracks one generation to Elizabeth, who was the cousin of Mary the mother of Christ.

He tells us that Elizabeth and her husband, Zacharias were both righteous before God, walking blameless in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord. Luke 1:6

Gabriel, an angel, came to Zacharias to announce the good news that his wife would have a baby.  Zacharias, true to human form, said, Why should I believe you.  

This must have irked the angel because he said, You can trust me because God sent me to tell you, but because you did not believe me you shall not able to speak until the day that these things shall be performed. Luke 1:18-20

Before John was born to Elizabeth, Mary came to visit her cousin.  It was then that Mary spoke those beautiful words which are now called The Magnificat. Luke 1:46-55.

After John was born, his father also sang a 
song of praise to Jehovah. Luke 1:68-79.  By the power of the spirit of God Zachariah sensed that his son was someone special.   

From reading his words of praise, I understand that wishful thinking caused him to misunderstand Jewish prophecies in such a way that he believed that his son would deliver Israel from Roman bondage.

The Setting for the Birth of Christ

  1. Caesar Augustus decided that "his whole world" should be taxed
  2. Every male citizen had to return to the city where they were born
  3. Joseph went to Bethlehem with his girlfriend
  4. Because of Ceasar's order, there were a lot of "tourists" on the roads and the hotels were all full to capacity.
There are a few things to notice here:

We often think that Mary was close to delivery when they made this journey, but this may not have been the case at all. Joseph may have been anxious to get her out of Nazareth to avoid the pressure of scandal. Luke tells us that it was while they were in Bethlehem. Guzik  The Bible does not say that it happened the same night they arrived or even soon after they arrived, but that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. Luke 2:6

In spite of the fact that the Roman Catholic church claims that the virgin Mary is a "perpetual virgin" the Bible distinctly says that she is not. 
And she brought forth her son, the First-born. Luke 2:7.  Luke tells us that she had more than 1 child!

Joseph did not know her until she bore her son, the First-born. Matthew 1:25. In the Bible, in a phrase of this nature, the word "know" means "to have sexual relations with".  Simply stated, after Christ was born, Mary and Joseph had a normal marriage relationship.

Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And his brothers, James and Joses and Simon and Judas,  and his sisters, are they not all with us?  Mat. 13:55-56.  Based on this statement Jesus had at least 6 brothers and sisters.

To overcome this problem the Roman Catholic version says that These were the children of Mary, the wife of Cleophas, sister of our blessed Lady;  I see one big problem with this: Mary, the mother of Christ had a sister named Mary. Go figure.

these all were continuing with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers. Act 1:14

But I saw no other of the apostles, except James the Lord's brother. Gal 1:19.  Here is a good example of the church rather following their own ideas than the Bible's teachings.

Matthew and Luke

Matthew starts with the genealogy of Joseph, who later became Mary's husband.  
In his genealogy he has three divisions, each one being 14 generations long. That fact already makes the premise suspect. 

So there is a total of 42 generations:
Abraham was a man who trusted his God      
  1.  From Abraham to David
  2.  from David to the Babylonian captivity
  3.  from the captivity to the birth of Christ
Jewish history, of course, starts with Father Abram, and it is estimated that he was born in 2165 BCE.  That is also where Matthew starts Christ's Genealogy. 

Normally we figure that each generation is 33 years long and so we end up with 42 generations x33=1386 years.  This means then that Christ was born circa 779 BCE. 

That is impossible but we remember that back in Abram's era it was not unusual to live about two hundred years.  

We recall that Isaac was born when Abram, his father, was 100 years old.  Jacob was born when Isaac, his father, was 60 years old.  However, later on, the generations were not that long.

So if we figure that, on the average, each generation was 51.5 years long we would end up at about the time Christ was born.  However, that is not the answer that theologians give us.

a. Matthew points out that this genealogy is not complete. There were not actually 14 generations between the landmarks he indicates, but Matthew edited the list down to make it easy to remember and memorise.

b. The practice of skipping generations at times was common in the listing of ancient genealogies. Matthew did nothing unusual by leaving some generations out. Guzik

Much more needs to be written about the birth of Christ; but, let me warn you now, I do not travel the normal path.